EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings and Eagles have well-reputed defensive lines capable of stuffing the run and pressuring quarterbacks.
As for the respective offensive lines that will be tasked with stonewalling opponents on Sunday, there’s quite a contrast in terms of experience together.
Philadelphia is long-established, with left tackle Jason Peters leading the way with 187 career starts in 197 regular-season games, including all 132 with the Eagles.
Center Jason Kelce, a sixth-round pick in 2011, has started all 115 with Philadelphia. Right guard Brandon Brooks has 95 career starts in 101 games (all 51 with the Eagles), and right tackle Lane Johnson has opened all 85 with the team. Left guard Isaac Seumalo, a third-round pick in 2016, has started 20 of 41 games.
Add it all up, and that’s 404 regular-season games started by their front five.
The Vikings, meanwhile, redid the interior of their offensive line this offseason by bringing in veteran right guard Josh Kline as well as veteran reserve Dakota Dozier, who has been pressed into action at both guard spots already this season. Minnesota drafted center Garrett Bradbury in the first round and then shifted Pat Elflein to left guard.
Combined starts in purple by LT Riley Reiff, Elflein, Bradbury, Kline and RT Brian O’Neill? 89.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked Wednesday about the Eagles offensive line and members of the Minnesota Moving Company.
“They’re bigger, and they’re all veterans,” Zimmer said. “The one guard (Seumalo) is the young guy, but Kelce is a very active player. Peters is huge, Lane Johnson is an athletic guy. Brooks is a big, strong road grader guy. That’s a challenge in itself, and we can’t sit and catch these guys.”
Zimmer was asked specifically about Elflein and Bradbury.
“I think he played pretty well Sunday. I think he’s improving,” Zimmer said of Elflein. “He’s had some really good games, and then he’s had some poor plays. He needs to just continue with the consistency.”
Zimmer said Bradbury, who has drawn plenty of tough matchups early in his career, has “kind of had some welcome-to-the-NFL moments, but then last week, I think, was his best game.”
The coach said the rookie hasn’t made very many mental errors, and he thinks that time together will continue to benefit the entire unit.
“I think with all these guys, the more that they continue to work together and they continue to get their feet wet, I think they continue to improve,” Zimmer said. “They’ll have some tough matchups this week.”
Here are four other topics addressed by Zimmer:
1. Sacks spree
The Eagles defense is active and aggressive up front and has developed an effective rotation under Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Philadelphia capitalized last week against the New York Jets in a game that quickly got out of hand and finished the day with 10 sacks, more than tripling its combined total of three through the first four games of 2019.
“Maybe they’re getting their groove a little bit,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to have to do a good job in protection on these guys. They’re good pass rushers, and they’ve got good blitzes, so the backs are going to have to be involved, the tight ends, everybody.”
2. As for the secondary
The back end of the Eagles defense has been banged up. Philadelphia added former Vikings and Golden Gophers cornerback Craig James along the way, and he had a key pass breakup at Green Bay in Week 4.
Zimmer said he’s seen Schwartz alter the Eagles coverage a bit as they’ve worked through the injuries.
“I think they’re going to get some guys back, so we’ll just have to see if they stick with some of the same coverages or they go back to what they typically do,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to have to be prepared for both.”
3. Dejo knows
Eagles safety Andrew Sendejo worked his way up from a role with the Vikings on special teams to becoming a multiyear starter alongside Harrison Smith.
Zimmer told Philadelphia media members he expected Sendejo to “sing like a canary” about the Vikings defense.
While it’s quite common for players to change teams and face their former squads, Zimmer noted that Sendejo put in the time to understand the entire Vikings defensive scheme.
“Sendejo was always a smart player, and some players they don’t much about the scheme,” Zimmer said. “They kind of know a little about their area or what they do, but he knows a lot about everything, yeah.”
4. Bisi’s reliability & versatility
Rookie receiver Bisi Johnson, a seventh-round pick in April, had four catches for 43 yards on Sunday. The former Colorado State product’s day included a long of 23 yards.
Zimmer said a big key to Johnson’s opportunities has been his reliability and versatility.
“I think the biggest thing he’s done is be very reliable,” Zimmer said. “He gets to the right places, he can play all three [receiving] positions. He gets himself in the game and then does a good job in really all those areas.”